Jaina literature and the growth of Vernacular Language:
Jainism had played a pivotal role in the development of the language of the country.
Sanskrit and Pali have been the medium of writings and preaching’s of Brahmanas and Buddhists.
But the Jains gave a definite literary shape to some vernaculars for the first time.
Mahavira preached in the mixed dialect called Ardha-Magadhi so that it could be easily understood by the people speaking “Magadhi” and “Sauraseni”. His teachings, classified into twelve books called “Srutanga” are written in Ardha-Magadhi. Later on jaina books were written in Prakrit language. Many regional languages developed out of the Prakrit Language, particularly Marathi language developed out of ‘Sauraseni’.
The jainas composed earliest important works in ‘Apabharamsa” and its first grammar. ‘Apabhramsa’ was current before the evolution of Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi. It has nexus with Sanskrit and Prakrit on the one hand and the modern vernaculars on the other hand. The jainas also wrote extensively in Kannad. Some of the scriptures of jainas, have written in Sanskrit. The jaina texts like ‘Anga’, ‘Upanga’, ‘Agama’ and ‘Kalpasutra’ were written in Sanskrit. Jainism thus enriched immensely Indian languages and literature.
Creation of Healthy Society:
Jainism made the first attempt to mitigate the evils of Varna order. The later Vedic society was based on caste system. The people of higher castes always exploited the lower castes. But Jainism treated the people of all the castes equally. Its followers, irrespective of their castes treated each other as brothers and sisters. Thus Jainism encouraged the growth of a healthy society.
The jaina art and architecture also adorned Indian Art. In the early centuries stupas in honour of their saints with their accessories of stone railings, decorated gateways, stone umbrellas, pillars, statues were erected. Beautiful jaina images are found in Mathura, Bundelakhand and northern Madhya Pradesh.
The statue of Bahubali called Gomatesvara at Sravan Belgola and Karkal in Karnataka are examples of wonderful jaina architecture. The statue of Bahubali 21 metered high, carved out of a mass of granite was erected in 984 A.D. by Chamundaraya, the minister of Ganga king, Rachamalla.
The jaina caves with their relief works and statues at Udayagiri hills, near Bhilsa in Madhya Pradesh, and Ellora in Maharashtra are excellent examples of jaina architecture and sculpture. The jainas also have constructed cave temples cut in rocks, found in Orissa are called Hatigumpha cover other examples of jaina architecture are found at Junagarh,. Junnar and Osmanabad.
Many jaina centres of Pilgrimage, such as, the Parsvanath Hills, Pavapuri and Rajgiri in Bihar and Girnar and Palitana in Kathiawar have temples and other architectural monuments. The jaina temple at mount Abu in Rajasthan built in eleventh century, reached the highest perfection in jaina architecture.
Jainism is older than ‘Buddhism’. It raised its voice against the Brahmanical dominance of Hinduism. Mahavira’s personal example of simplicity, penance and austerity popularized Jainism. Jainism cannot become a dominant religion in India.
Jainism could not be spread abroad. But it remained as a powerful sect in the country. Today the jainas are a small but wealthy community, residing mostly in Gujarat and Rajputana. Jainism has left its impact on art, architecture and sculpture of India. It still remains as one of the important all India religion.